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Antidepressant prescriptions almost double in 10 years

Friday 29th March 2019
More people feel confident about seeking medical help for mental health issues than ever before.
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The total number of prescriptions being handed out for antidepressants has almost doubled in the last decade, according to figures from NHS Digital.

It has revealed that 70.9m prescriptions were dispensed in England alone last year, a jump from 67.5m in 2017.

All items for conditions such as depression and anxiety issued by the NHS were included in the total, although those prescribed by hospitals or private health providers were excluded from the figures.

Scotland has followed a similar trend, with 6.6m antidepressants dispensed in 2017 to 2018, compared with 3.8m in the 2007 to 2008 year.

A spokesman for NHS England said: "While antidepressants play an important role for some patients, an attitude of 'a pill for every ill' can mean not only do some people end up taking medicine they don't need to, but taxpayer funding is spent on avoidable prescriptions."

The Royal College of GPs has spoken out about the importance of interpreting the figures properly and not necessarily seeing an increased number of prescriptions for antidepressants as a bad thing.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, the organisation’s chair, pointed out that as long as family doctors are looking into the full circumstances surrounding a patient’s problem, the drugs can be an effective option.

She added that society has a better awareness of mental health conditions than ever before and many people now feel confident about seeking medical advice when they would have shied away before.

In a situation where access to alternatives, such as cognitive behavioural therapy and talking therapies are limited, then doctors often have to prescribe drugs instead.

Written by Angela Newbury

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